Archives for : September2009

THE OPTIMIST FELL from the fourth floor sill

And as he passed each window bar,
He shouted to the folks below,
“Doing all right so far…!”

How ridiculous! Yet there are preachers across the land that advocate a lot of feel-good religion without a call to commitment or even a call to reality. A preacher was telling a congregation that if they lived right, God would bless them with health, wealth, popularity, and happiness. Tell that to families who mourn the loss of their loved ones. Tell that to a family who loses their home in a fire. Tell that to one who works for years at a job and then gets laid off in a cut back.

Jesus Himself is described as “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). Jesus calls us to have a balance in life. He wants us to be real, not some kind of phony religious nuts who go around with fake, painted-on smiles. The difference between us and the world is not measured by our lack of problems, but rather by the presence of a constant Friend who helps us through them.

In contrast to those who never appear to have a sad moment, there are some who are under the misconception that to be truly humble, we have to put on a sad look and a sad disposition. Jesus specifically warned against trying to get people to feel sorry for us when we are fasting, giving, or praying (Matthew 6:1-18).

Neither is spirituality the same as feeling guilty all the time. We believe in the awesome power of the cross of Christ to receive remission of sins and inner healing. If we are truly forgiven, why should we mope around acting pathetic? If we have the promise of eternal life in Heaven, why should we live in worry, fear, or doubt?

The key to a fulfilling Christian life is to learn to live appropriately. We must be open and sensitive to the needs and the feelings of those around us. When one member of the Body is hurting, we should all feel the pain. When one member of the Body has cause to celebrate, we should all join in to enjoy the person’s success and blessing. In doing so, we draw closer and closer each day. We become stronger so that we can better endure our hardships, overcome our obstacles, and enjoy our fellowship even more deeply. (Roger Wright)

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).

–Mike Benson

People can be like sheep

NEAR THE VILLAGE of Gevas in eastern Turkey, while shepherds ate their breakfast, one of their sheep jumped off a 45-foot cliff to its death…

Then, as the stunned shepherds looked on, the rest of the flock followed. In all, 1,500 sheep mindlessly stumbled off the cliff. The only good news was that the last 1,000 were cushioned in their fall by the growing woolly pile of those who jumped first. According to The Washington Post, 450 sheep died.
The Bible often refers to human beings as sheep (Ps. 100:3; Isa. 53:6; Matt. 9:36). Easily distracted and susceptible to group influence, we would rather follow the crowd than the wisdom of the Shepherd.

Whom are we following? One another? Or the voice and direction of the Good Shepherd? Our challenge is to avoid the mistake of the sheep who blindly followed one another over a cliff. We must make it our daily purpose to ask ourselves: Am I listening for the voice of the Good Shepherd? Am I following Him? (Mart De Haan)

Savior, like a shepherd lead us,
Much we need Thy tender care;
In Thy pleasant pastures feed us,
For our use Thy folds prepare. (Thrupp)

Jesus Christ: Tempted in all points like we are

A STORY IS told of a man whose wife had deserted him for another man… She had succeeded in taking away their children. The estranged husband had given into depression and lost his business. Broken hearted and ruined, he became obsessed with the enormity of his troubles and refused every offer of encouragement and hope. The day came when he heard a great sermon on Christ having been “in all points tempted like as we are,” but rather than being comforted he resented the sermon and told the preacher. “Yes, Jesus suffered many things, but he never had a wife and family stolen from him. He was never married, never had children, so that’s suffering he never knew.” The preacher wisely responded, “You have seen an accomplished violinist play a great variety of music. There are only four strings on his violin, but they can produce both dances and dirges. The same four strings can cover the whole range. No, Jesus did not experience your trials in the same details, but he endured the broad range of disappointment, desertion, grief, pain, and even dying, so that the strings of his heart can vibrate with all the sad songs of life’s bitterest experiences.” (David Pharr) “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).

Some Christianity is just like professional sports

I LOVE GOING to Chicago’s Wrigley Field for a baseball game—sitting in the stands, downing a great hot dog, and cheering the Cubs on to victory…! Unfortunately, Christianity has become a lot like professional sports. As a friend of mine has observed, there are nine guys on the baseball field doing all the work and thousands in the stands just watching. And as you probably know, that’s not God’s game plan for His people. He wants us to climb out of the stands, get out on the field, and join the team. If you are wondering what good you can do on the field, wonder no more. What about your financial resources?

Jesus can take your “silver and gold” and use it to accomplish great things for His glory. But more than just getting out your checkbook, you have gifts you can contribute. God has given each of us gifts that can help advance His kingdom. Whether it’s teaching, encouraging, serving, showing hospitality, or extending mercy, each ability can yield great dividends. Let’s follow the example of Paul, who tirelessly served on God’s field for the joy of being used by Him. Believe me, it’s far more rewarding to be on the field than to sit in the stands. (Joe Stowell) “Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily” (Col. 1:28-29).

AN OPEN LETTER to the congregation of Israel from your humble servant/priests, Nadab and Abihu

Brethren,

It is with the utmost humility that we inform you of a change of worship practices in your normal sacrificing. Be assured that we are bringing about this change only after much prayer and study.

We have recently concluded an in-depth study of the Law as delivered by our brother Moses that covered 400 days. (We might note that is ten times the length of time it took the Lord to impart this Law.)

We have decided to bring about a change in the type of fire used in worship. We are aware that there is a standing tradition of using only one source of fire, but we, as holy priests, do not feel obligated to blindly follow tradition. Numerous polls of our worshipping clientele indicate the overwhelming opinion that they do not care where we get the fire used for their sacrifices just as long as the service is conducted in a respectful and meaningful way.

We were in agreement with this growing majority, as we cannot see how a change in fire will affect anything in the least about our sacrifices. The animal is still properly cooked, the incense burned. We are of the mind that were we to secretly substitute a different fire it would be impossible for any of the worshippers to know a change had taken place.

Besides all this, we became aware of the fact that nowhere in the Law does the Lord forbid the use of what some of our detractors have referred to as “strange fire.” We feel that the lack of such a restriction was meant to give us freedom. For those who disagree, we would ask you to show us any place in the Law that tells us we cannot do something the Lord has not seen fit to condemn.

We also wish to point out that the congregation of Israel is the only religious group in the known world that willingly limits itself to only one kind of fire. We have become the laughingstock of the land of Canaan and have been ridiculed openly by many groups. This “only one fire” self-righteous policy has alienated us from everyone else. We believe this change will open up many fellowship opportunities.

Now, to set the minds of some of you at ease, we will continue to offer a traditional service using the old-fashioned fire as well as this progressive service with the new fire. As a matter of fact, we may occasionally use the old fire in our progressive service for special feast days. In this way we hope that our older citizens are still comfortable even though they dogmatically insist on a worship style which is declining and we believe to be stunting our growth.

Consider the freedom this new practice affords us! We will no longer have the expense of maintaining a constant fire in one location. This will also make it possible to appeal to a younger audience as we discover more entertaining ways to “light the fire” of our assemblies. (We hope you caught the little play on words there!)

For those who still oppose the use of new fire, we ask you not to be judgmental of new ideas. We also hope you will not use this change as a excuse to divide our people or stir up trouble within the congregation. We remind you that this has been well thought out and the majority of elders have signed on with us. It is true we have not included our father Aaron in this deliberation; but we were well aware of his tradition-bound views and still plan to leave him in charge of doing the traditional service anyway. We also have not consulted Moses, but his humility is well known and we are confident he will want to uphold the majority decision in this effort to improve our worship.

We are very much looking forward to our first new fire service. We hope you will make a special effort to be present to witness a new age of enlightenment in the church of Israel. We know God will be watching and we anticipate that his joy over seeing his people take a great step toward throwing off the burden of binding tradition will be an electrifying experience.

See you there. Bring some extra barbecue sauce, for we think this new practice is going to spread like wildfire!

For freedom’s sake!

Nadab & Abihu, DDLP (Doctors of Divine Law and Progress)

After the successful changeover in this part of our worship, future plans include the ordination of women priests, inter-idol fellowship activities with the various pagan groups nearby, and a special service called, “It doesn’t have to be Passover to celebrate Passover anymore.” (David Brassfield)

“Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them.  So fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD” (Leviticus 10:1-2).

The word "from" in the Bible

The preposition FROM

 THE WORD “FROM” IS NOT ONLY A COMMON WORD FOR US, IT IS A COMMON BIBLE WORD.

 a)      In addition to being common, it is important as we see from our first reference, Mt. 1:21.

b)      It was said Jesus would save people FROM their sins.

2)      A military power cannot deliver us from sin; political power cannot free us from sin.

3)      Money does not deliver us from it and sin cannot be overcome by getting an education.

4)      The only victory from sin is through Jesus Christ.

5)      Mt. 3:7

6)      Today we see people fleeing from a danger.

7)      Mt. 5:29-30.

8)      Why would a person pluck out their own eye?

9)      Sin is bad so Jesus said we want to do all we can to stay away “from” it.

a)      God wants us to stay away FROM sin.

b)      Sometimes this is going to be very, very difficult.

c)      It may be hard because it will make us unpopular.

d)     It may be hard because a sin is very attractive to us.

e)      It may be hard because it would mean we avoid something that our friends do.

f)       FROM is a word that partly describes how Christians live.

10)  Another passage that uses FROM in the Sermon on the Mount is found in the next chapter.

a)      Mt. 6:13 – READ

b)      Before a person sins, there is usually some type of temptation.

c)      Like a fish that studies a worm on a hook, so man often looks at temptation.

d)     Mt. 7.  Verse 23 – READ

11)  What if God said to us, “Go away from me?”

12)  What if God not only said this, He said “Go away from me FOREVER?”

13)  This is what the Lord described in this verse.

a)      Mt. 8:11 – READ

b)      Jesus said people will come from the “east and the west.”

c)      Jesus used these two directions to describe people from many different places.

d)     In Mt. 13:35 Jesus said some things had been hidden FROM the foundation of the world.

14)  We can know what is right and do what is right because we have God’s full revelation.

15)  We can read it, hear it, study it in hundreds of different ways, and search it in multiple ways.

16)  All kinds of people should be doing what is right.

a)      The sad truth is that many are not doing what is right.

b)      Think about Mt. 15:8 in light of our current culture.

17)  Jesus said their heart is FAR FROM me.

18)  A person can profess to be religious.  He can say the right things and come to the right place.

19)  A person may even believe the right things.

20)  God said a person’s heart can be in a different place.

a)      Part of the problem was using information other than God’s revealed word, Mt. 15:9.

b)      If our heart has been moved away from God, it is in the wrong place.

21)  FROM is a word that matters a lot in many different areas of life.

22)  God is very serious about religion and this includes getting away from sin; are we as serious?

Are you prepared for eternity?

  A man recently asked me to watch for a used riding lawn mower and tonight I spied one that was about like he wants.  Since the mower was located near the road I was driving on and some family members were outside, I decided to stop and get some information.

The family dog was not visible and apparently not interested in me when I stopped.  Neither did it show itself when I left my truck.  When I was a good distance from my vehicle the dog did take an interest in me and he was big.  He raced out to my location as fast as he could with teeth barred and a nasty bark.  His salivating jaws and not so dull teeth grazed my hand as a woman screamed DON’T MOVE.  It was a thoughtful but unnecessary warning.  I stood very still hoping Fido would leave me with all my arms and legs.

The woman made her way out to me, called off the dog, and gave me all the information I sought.   Making it back into the vehicle safely not only left me thankful but thinking about warnings.  We may receive a warning well before it is needed, just before it is needed, or after the fact (too late).  Some warnings are worthless and some save lives.

God has issued some warnings to the world, one of which is found in 2 Peter 3:10-11:  But the day of the Lord will come as a thief; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up.  11 Seeing that these things are thus all to be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in (all) holy living and godliness. 

Do you believe God’s warning?  Have you prepared yourself for eternity?  If not, a time is coming when it will be too late.

A woman who had 22 different husbands

I was very shocked to read about a Malaysian woman who is 107 year old and is married to a man who is 70 year younger than her. I was even more shocked to read that this is her 22nd marriage! In her previous marriages, some had died and some had divorced. In this article she was expressing that she was afraid her current husband would leave her for a younger woman, but even if he did she had her eyes on a 50-year-old man. If this was not already bad enough, her current husband expressed that they fell for each other because it was “God’s will” (CNN News).

What? It was God’s will that this woman have 22 different husbands over the course of her life just so she eventually finds the one she is with now? And God had this all planned out? While many thoughts come to my mind in response to this, I will let God tell us what His will is. 1 Peter 4:1-3 says, “Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suf.fered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries.” Then we are all familiar with other scriptures such as Matthew 5:32, 19:9; Malachi 2:6, etc. Obviously God’s will for this couple was for them to cease from such sins as they were committing. So, this couple was absolutely not following God’s will. God did not approve of this marriage, and likely many of the others before it.

While having the attitude of “God’s will be done” is a good and valid one, this only works when people are actually trying to let God’s will work in their lives. The goal of this article was not to focus on divorce, but about letting God’s will work in our lives. Thankfully, God has revealed His will to us in the Bible. God’s will is never that we live in sin. No matter what we may think or feel is right, let’s make sure we have God’s approval within the Bible. Let’s close with Colossians 1:9-12, “For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.”

Christianity is to be an active lifestyle, a work, a passion

Good Men Doing Nothing
(Tim Dooley)
    There is an old saying by Edmund Burke that asserts, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” This is most certainly true for the lives of Christians. It has been said that if we stand still the world and denominationalism will pass us by.  Many of us have seen this happen in our lifetimes regarding the church, truth, doing of good, and the souls of men.
What have we seen good men not do?

  • Pray (1 Thess. 5:17).
  • Study (2 Tim. 2:15).
  • Worship (Heb. 10:25).
  • Edify (1 Thess. 5:11).
  • Support (Acts 20:35).
  • Love (Matt. 5:43-48).
  • Teach (2 Tim. 2:2).
  • Work (John 4:35).
  • Give (2 Cor. 9:7).
  • Show courage (1 Cor. 16:13).
  • Fight (1 Tim. 6:12).

Certainly you could add many more things to this list, but you get the idea.  Christianity is to be an active lifestyle, a work, a passion. If good men do nothing, if Christians do nothing, evil will triumph.
However, doing nothing does not remove culpability. Pilate tried to wash his hands and do nothing, but he could have stood for what was right and released Jesus (Matt. 27:24). What does this mean for you and I? Well, we don’t have to do any of the things we have mentioned. We can stand by and let evil prevail.  If we do don’t be surprised when you suffer evil, loose your home in Heaven and find yourself in eternal damnation with those you allowed to win here on earth. Be faithful! 

Good Men Doing Nothing
(Tim Dooley)
 
There is an old saying by Edmund Burke that asserts, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” This is most certainly true for the lives of Christians. It has been said that if we stand still the world and denominationalism will pass us by.  Many of us have seen this happen in our lifetimes regarding the church, truth, doing of good, and the souls of men. 

What have we seen good men not do?

  • Pray (1 Thess. 5:17).
  • Study (2 Tim. 2:15).
  • Worship (Heb. 10:25).
  • Edify (1 Thess. 5:11).
  • Support (Acts 20:35).
  • Love (Matt. 5:43-48).
  • Teach (2 Tim. 2:2).
  • Work (John 4:35).
  • Give (2 Cor. 9:7).
  • Show courage (1 Cor. 16:13).
  • Fight (1 Tim. 6:12).
Certainly you could add many more things to this list, but you get the idea.  Christianity is to be an active lifestyle, a work, a passion. If good men do nothing, if Christians do nothing, evil will triumph.

However, doing nothing does not remove culpability. Pilate tried to wash his hands and do nothing, but he could have stood for what was right and released Jesus (Matt. 27:24). What does this mean for you and I? Well, we don’t have to do any of the things we have mentioned. We can stand by and let evil prevail.  If we do don’t be surprised when you suffer evil, loose your home in Heaven and find yourself in eternal damnation with those you allowed to win here on earth. Be faithful!

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The Incredible Incubator Bird

       When we talk about incredible animals that prove God’s existence, the Megapode (or Australian Incubator Bird) is one that defiantly makes the list.  Let’s discover why this bird is so incredible.
       When the female is ready to lay her eggs, she will search for a nest that the male has build and make sure it is suitable to her.  The male will make the nest about 3 feet into the ground, 10 or more feet above the ground, and sometimes 50 feet across.  This is obviously not your typical bird’s nest here.  When the female approves, she will then lay her eggs, 20-35 of them, at a rate of one egg ever 3 days for up to seven months.  It is interesting that this bird is not much bigger than a three pound hen, and yet it lays eggs as large as an ostrich egg, and many of them.  Once she is done laying her eggs she will leave the nest and never return or take any part in the incubation.
       If this wasn’t amazing enough already, the male’s responsibility is what is really astonishing.  While most birds sit on the eggs to keep them warm, this bird doesn’t.  With the eggs buried deeply in the nest, the male works very hard to make sure the nest is at a precise 91 degrees.  If it is even one degree higher or lower, the eggs will not survive.  So, to maintain the temperature, the male will dig down and check the temperature of the eggs.  If it is a particularly hot day, he will put material on the top of the nest, such as sand, to help block the sunlight and keep the eggs cool!  Or if it is a cool day, he will add additional materials to ensure the eggs are kept warm.  Sometimes he will make the nest in just the right way to let sunlight warm the eggs.  Even more incredible is that sometimes the male will use volcanic action to help warm the eggs!  Another responsibility of the male is to keep the nest at 99.5% humidity (if it drops below 80%, the chicks will die).  So, he will dig holes in the nest so moisture is able to get in.  The male digs down many times per day to check on the eggs and adjust the nest if needed.  Scientists today are not completely sure how the male incubator bird is able to check the temperature of the eggs (they think either his tongue or his beak), but whatever the mechanism may be, it is very sensitive and is able to keep precise measurements.
       As soon as they break out of their eggs, they know immediately that they will need to dig out of the nest.  They were never told this is what they needed to do, but they are born with instinctive directions only God could have implanted.  It will take them 3 days to dig out of the nest.  The chicks will dig their way out of the nest and then they are completely on their own.  The good news is, they will hatch with feathers and the capability to fly.  They are not fed or cared for in any way.  They are now dependent on themselves for survival.  How could a brand new bird, who has never even seen the sun before, know to dig its way out of the nest, know how to fly, and know how to take care of all of its survival needs?  This is obviously not learned from either parent.
       Evolution talks about how a creature will evolve when there is a need for change.  How could the incubator bird know it needed to check the temperature of the eggs, much less keep them at a precise 91 degrees?  How could he know to keep the humidity above 81%?  How do the chicks know to they are under the ground and need to dig their way out?  And how do the chicks know how to survive without ANY guidance?  An animal that is dead cannot evolve into a different form.  With evolution, this incredible bird would have gone extinct (not to mention MANY others) a long time ago. The Supreme Being of this universe could only have created this bird.  The only possible way for this bird to even be alive today is if God had a hand in all that it does.  Our God truly is an awesome God.  Let’s praise Him for His wonderful creation.
Brett Petrillo

Christian heresy

PERHAPS THE GREATEST heresy of twentieth-century American religion was to make faith into a purely personal matter and a private affair, which went neatly with the rise of the consumer society…
 
With the advent of the television preachers, faith was turned into an occasion for conspicuous consumption and effective fund-raising.  Faith became merely another commodity: “I have it, and you don’t.”  Or worse, “Here’s how you can get it too.  Our operators are standing by!”
 
But in the Bible, faith is not something you possess but rather something you practice.  You have to put it into action or it really doesn’t mean anything.  Faith changes things.  It’s the energy of transformation, both for individuals and for society.  (Jim Wallis)
 
“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?  If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?  Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.  But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.  You believe that there is one God. You do well.  Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:14-20).
–Mike Benson

HYPERCRITICISM

It did not take me very long, despite living life as a preacher, to learn that there are hypercritical people everywhere.  These are the people for whom compliments and praise seem extremely difficult, but for whom complaining, murmuring, and criticizing seems second nature.  Often, they go so far as to question others’ motives or they reveal a very cynical and bitter attitude.  I have found that these folks, whatever good works they do or how actively they participate in church programs, are decided liabilities to the congregation where they are members.  Here are a few reasons why.

            Hypercritics kill morale.  No plan is good enough.  No activity is done right.  The hypercritic can be counted on to shoot holes in goals, plans, and ideas.  They can single-handedly such the enthusiasm out of a congregation with the fortitude to stand against or ignore such tirades.

            Hypercritics build walls.  They tend to cast situations in the “us” versus “them” mold.  Anyone caught in the cross hairs of their campaigns suffers character assassination.  Such personalities polarize, and they at times go so far as to be divisive.  God condemns such (1 Cor. 1:10; 3:4).  The Lord is to be the only wall builder in His church (Eph. 2:20-21), and His walls unite people with differences under the authority of Christ.  From behind their walls, hypercritics take shots at fellow-soldiers in unfriendly fire.

            Hypercritics spread discontent.  Such people tend to lobby for others to join their complaint committee.  That way, they can say, “Several people feel the way I do.”  In reality, the hypercritic often creates such monsters.  Yet, these should beware.  Korah led a hypercritical campaign against Moses which turned out most poorly for him and his cohorts (Num. 16:3,31-35).

            Hypercritics run on the deadly fuel of cynicism.  They tend to see the worst side of others.  Hypercriticism, by nature, easily leads one to judge unrighteously and blindly (Matt. 7:1-5).  Anything done must have been done for show.  A good deed had to have had an ulterior motive.  Hypercritics may even think of others Christians as “fakes,” “snobs,” or equally vilifying, presumptuous allegations.  Cynicism may merely come from looking at others as acting as they themselves act.

            It must be miserable to go through life predominantly seeing the worst in others and expecting the worst out of everything.  My prayer is that wherever a hypercritical spirit roams, we will “exorcise” it.  Let us use our tongues to praise more and bruise less.

Neal Pollard

 

THE PASSING OF TIME

     The rules at a particular university were such that if the professor were not present in the classroom by 15 minutes past the hour, the class was considered a “walk” and the students were free to leave — with no penalties for missing a class.  The rooms were equipped with the type wall clocks which “jumped” ahead each minute, in a very noticeable fashion.  These clocks were also not of the most sophisticated construction.  Some enterprising student discovered that if one were to hit the clock with chalkboard erasers, it would cause the clock to “jump” ahead one minute.
     So, it became almost daily routine for these students to take target practice at the clock (as it would have it, this particular professor was not the most punctual).  A few well-aimed erasers, and lo, 15 minutes were passed, and class dismissed itself.
     When the day for the next exam rolled around, the professor strolled into the room, passed out the exams, and told them “You have one hour to complete it.”
     The professor then proceeded to collect the erasers from around the room and gleefully took aim at the clock.  When he had successfully “jumped” the clock forward one hour, he closed the class and collected the exam papers.
     We’ll all been in situations where we would like for time to jump ahead and move faster than it does.  But, as we get older, we become aware than time is moving quite fast enough on its own, without any help!
     “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle…” (Job 2:6)
     “Now my days are swifter than a runner; They flee away….They pass by like swift ships, Like an eagle swooping on its prey.” (Job 9:25-26)
     “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” (James 4:14b)
     The Bible speaks often about how quickly life passes, not to depress us, but to bring us to the realization that we had better be preparing now for the eternity that lies beyond this life.
     If you find yourself watching the clock at work today, wishing the time would pass faster, be careful!  It will be gone before you know it.

 

— Alan Smith

WASHING YOUR SINS AWAY

The following true story comes from the “Kids of the Kingdom” section of Christian Reader (July/August 2000):

     As a couple drove home from church one afternoon, they were talking about a friend who was going to be baptized that day. As they were saying how proud they were of him, their three-year-old daughter Elizabeth asked, “What does it mean to be baptized?”

     Their 5-year-old son Joshua spoke up, “Oh, baptism — that’s when the preacher washes all your senses away.”

     Well, that’s not quite what the scriptures teach. I’m sure what that little boy meant (at least, I hope so) is that the scriptures teach that baptism washes our “sins” away.  Ananias said to Saul (later to be known as the apostle Paul):

     “And now why are you waiting?  Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:16)

     Don’t misunderstand.  It’s not that there’s magical power in the water.  In fact, the power is not in the water, but in the blood of Jesus Christ.  But as baptism demonstrates a death (to sin), burial (in water) and resurrection to new life, it expresses a faith in Jesus Christ who died, was buried and who rose again the third day (Romans 6:3-4).  And the end result is not a washing of the body, but a washing of the soul — remission of sins (I Peter 3:21; Acts 2:38).

     Have you taken this step of faith?

     “And now why are you waiting?  Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:16)

Alan Smith

Would you have taken the money?

Mr. Estrada certainly could have used the money. About six months ago, he opened a landscaping and artificial-grass business and is in debt; he says his child support payments are tough to make; and he supports his mother, who moved in with him last year after she lost her house to a fumbled refinancing plan.  Yet, Mr. Estrada went straight to the police and turned in all $140,000.00.

Apparently a Brinks armored truck somehow lost the money.  Brinks rewarded Mr. Estrada for his good deed by giving him $2,000.00.

So now, was Mr. Estrada a really a “moron?” Only if one views such values as honesty, integrity, and the “golden rule” as foolish.  But what about the cheap reward that was offered?  Some on this blog said that if they knew the reward for turning in the money would have been so small, they would have kept it.  But do we have to be financially rewarded for doing the right thing?  Are our values so degraded that we feel we deserve a “reward” for doing what we’re supposed to do?

A moron?  Hardly.  Here’s a man who has demonstrated that he sufficient intelligence to know that some things are more valuable than money…things like integrity, honesty, and doing the right thing.  Thank you, Mr. Estrada, for your example.  May your tribe increase!

Now then, truthfully, what would you do if you found them money?  Give it some thought.  (Steve Higginbotham)

 
“Take double money in your hand, and take back in your hand the money that was returned in the mouth of your sacks; perhaps it was an oversight” (Gen. 43:12).
 
–Mike Benson

THE BATTLE FOR SOULS

Without question, the church is in a battle, a Herculean struggle of global proportions. The greatest danger of human history faces it (Rom. 6:23). The greatest army fights it (Eph. 6:12). The greatest Commander leads it (Heb. 2:10). The greatest warriors have filled its ranks (2 Tim. 2:3). Each church member, like Timothy, is to “war a good warfare” (1 Tim. 1:18). Jesus said He “came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34). This war is not for the weak of heart or the faint in spirit. Having said all of that, there is a mentality that must be resisted with all of our collective strength. Being in this spiritual battle gives no Christian the right or license to behave like a spiritual “attack dog,” to assault or insult with sharp words, or to be obnoxious or rude in presenting the gospel (which, remember, means good news). The purpose of battle is two fold: to defeat Satan and to save the lost. Losing sight of our aim means jeopardizing our mission (cf. Matt. 28:18-20). We can repel the very souls we are trying to save through foolish tactics. Consider the following. The battle for souls is not a battle with souls. Remember who the adversary is! He is Satan. We are not out to slash or burn people! God forbid! Paul wrote, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:12). These principalities, powers, and rulers refer to forces that are not associated with flesh and blood. We are trying to reach the lost—not mow them down! Some require stronger persuasion than others, but no one should be made to feel contempt or haughtiness or assaulted (cf. Jude 22-23)! The battle for souls is not a battle about who is right. This battle must never be reduced to “me versus them.” The only winner of that battle is Satan. Maintaining a spirit like Paul’s, each of us should say, “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given…” (Eph. 3:8). We must fight with humility and meekness. The battle is for truth, not against another person. Our aim is not to shoot down the other guy’s position, to mortally wound his religion, or bomb his beliefs.

We are to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). The positive effect of truth, when believed, is the rejection of human creeds and religions. Let the truth work in that fashion (Heb. 4:12). It does not need our help, through rancorous and vicious attacks on the lost person. It is a matter of what is right in religious discussion. Never is it about personal victory over another. The battle for souls is not a battle fought by carnal rules of warfare. We are not out to kill. We are out to rescue. We are going into the enemy’s camp and trying to recruit soldiers for the Lord’s cause. “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds” (2 Cor. 10:4). We are not looking to shoot when we see the whites of their eyes. We are not going to shoot first, then ask questions later. We are not out to “show them.” We are seeking to sake.

Allow me to be frank. At times, attitudes have not been Christ-like. Let us avoid an overzealous attitude which wounds and bruises. Let us be zealous! But, let us channel and harness our zeal with Christ-like love. Satan is the enemy!

— Neal Pollard

Avoid false religious teachers

John warns, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world…” (2 John 7).  The particular deceivers in that passage denied that Jesus came in the flesh.  Looking at the religious landscape today, John would no doubt repeat himself.  There are so many deceivers who are leading people away from the truth.  Consider several identifying marks of false teachers, which the Holy Spirit makes known in various places throughout the Bible.
 

1.     They turn the grace of God into lasciviousness (Jude 4).  They distort what grace is, making it a blanket that hides blatant, willful sin.  False assurances are given about God’s grace and mankind’s attitudes about their sins.

2.     They cry “peace, peace” when there is no peace (Jer. 8:11).  Superficial comfort is given to people.  How many preachers, rather than confronting sin, tell people they are OK?

3.     They overthrow the faith of people (2 Tim. 2:18).  Throwing commands of scripture into doubt, lowering respect for the inspiration and perfection of the Bible, and allowing for ideas that strip the Bible of its power has undone the faith of so many.  Liberalism destroys people’s faith in God.

4.     They teach for doctrines the commandments of men (Mark 7:7).  If it contradicts or nullifies revealed truth, it is of man rather than God.  Looking at Christendom today, so much of what is widely embraced and assumed to be true are blatant departures from the Bible.

5.     They cover up their true intentions (Matt. 7:15).  Some teach falsely for the sake of being accepted.  Some do so for illicit gain.  Some do so out of an arrogant sense of self-importance (cf. Jude).  Yet, they almost always insist they are trying to help people get closer to God.

6.     They are well liked (Luke 6:26).  This is a potentially haunting passage.  Few preachers relish offending or upsetting people.  Yet, preaching the whole counsel of God means that, sometimes, some won’t like it.  Preachers and teachers should proclaim the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), but truth taught will sometimes offend no matter how pleasantly and gently it is delivered.

7.     They secretly introduce their teaching (2 Pet. 2:1).  Truth is not afraid of inspection.  Error grows in darkness rather than Sonlight.

  

Preachers and teachers must have backbone.  Let us preach the truth, even when it is difficult and opposed.  Have faith.  Whatever it costs to be faithful to the Word, know that heaven will surely be worth it all.  Have conviction.  Do not let circumstance determine content (cf. 2 Tim. 4:2-5).  Truth comes from God, and so we should love it for what it is and Whose it is.

 

 –Neal Pollard

No tutti-frutti ice cream

                  CONTENT TO BE DISCONTENT

     Jones, a wealthy financier, had on many occasion in the good old  days — when trains were flourishing and coaches were the last word in
 technological luxury — crossed the continent by Pullman.  He was well  known and well served and was accustomed to every convenience,
 particularly when dining. Imagine his exasperation, then, when it turned  out that the chef did not have tutti-frutti ice cream.

     “No tutti-frutti?” he shouted.  “I always have tutti-frutti.”     “I’m sorry, sir,” said the waiter, soothingly.  “We have chocolate,
 vanilla, strawberry, black walnut, cherry, mocha almond –”

     “I want tutti-frutti,” cried Jones, banging the table and turning red.  “I have always had tutti-frutti and I won’t have anything else.”

     For miles he muttered, scowled, growled, and snarled at everyone, so  that every train employee on board had visions of angry reprisals.
 Finally, the train stopped at a station; a word to the conductor kept it  there while the crew scoured the town for tutti-frutti ice cream.

     A whole pint of the dessert was found and all of it was presented to  Jones, with huge gobs of cherry sauce on it, together with a sliced banana
 and a swirl of whipped cream.     “Here is your tutti-frutti ice cream, Mr. Jones,” said the quaking  waiter.

     Jones looked at it with a scowl, then with a sudden swipe of his arm  hurled it to the floor, shouting, “I’d rather have my grievance!”

     As embarrassing as it is to admit it, I have been in that same  situation. There are times when I have been most content to be discontent
 and have received great enjoyment from being unhappy.  And pity the person  who tried to appease me and deprive me of the “pity party” I was throwing  myself!  Have you been there as well?

     “Rejoice in the Lord always.  Again I will say, rejoice!”  (Philippians 4:4)

—  Alan Smith

The Bible is like no other book

IT IS OFTEN said that the Bible is it’s own best interpreter… 
  
 How true!  One of the great things in the New Testament is that we can see the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophesies.  Those things written before were written for our learning (Romans 15:4) and for our examples (I Corinthians 10:11). 

We serve God who knows all things without the limitations of time that we have.  He knows the future as well as He knows the past and present.  To help us (and those before us) to have greater faith, He made promises in the prophecies and then fulfilled them in minute detail.  Jesus said, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me” (Luke 24:44). 

  

 For example:

 

Isaiah (some 800 years before) prophesied that Jesus would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14).  Matthew 1:22,23 says, “Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, ‘Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel,’ which being interpreted is, God with us.”

 

Other examples of the New Testament explaining the prophecies include:

 

Jesus came out of Egypt.                                                                               Hosea 11:1 & Matthew 2:15

The innocent babies would be slaughtered.                                                      Jeremiah 31:15 & Matthew 2:17       

The Lord would work in the area of Capernaum.                                                Isaiah 9:1,2 & Matthew 4:14  

Jesus came to bear our infirmities and sicknesses.                                          Isaiah 53:3,4 & Matthew 8:17

The Lord showed great compassion.                                                               Isaiah 49:6 & Matthew 12:17

The Spirit of the Lord was upon Jesus.                                                            Isaiah 61:1 & Luke 4:21

People would hear and not understand.                                                           Isaiah 6:9,10 & Matthew 13:13,14; John 12:37-41

Jesus would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt.                                         Zechariah 9:9 & Matthew 21:4

Judas would betray Jesus.                                                                             Psalms 41:9 & John 13:18                 

Jesus was betrayed for 30 pieces of silver.                                                      Zechariah 11:12,13 & Matthew 27:9

Jesus was numbered with the transgressors.                                                   Isaiah 53:12 & Mark 15:28

The soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ clothes.                                                         Psalms 22:18 & Matthew 27:35; John 19:24

Not one of Jesus’ bones would be broken.                                                       Psalms 34:20 & John 19:36

 

The odds of all of these (and more) being so perfectly fulfilled defy the skeptics to regard these as chance.  Instead, our faith in God and in His word, the Bible, grows when we see that He always keeps His word.  When we apply this to those promises for us, we have a hope that no one can take away from us.  Jesus promised that He is coming back.  He always keeps His promises.  Let’s make sure we are ready.  (Roger Wright)        

 

“But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel” (Acts 2:16).
 
–Mike Benson